Tata Dial-Up Experience and Eternal Wait for Telecom Revolution
It has been a topsy-turvy experience with Tata’s even before I became a customer! The fact is that I have been on BSNL dial up for the past 6 years without any respite from their lousy services. I have a reason to believe that all the talk about “telecom revolution” is hogwash because strictly speaking the perceived benefits have not percolated down to smaller cities at all.
My city is a Lok Sabha constituency and one of the bigger cities in Punjab. In no way it could be counted as a marginal place to stay. However, the fact remains that we have a big problem in accessing Internet. There are estimated 10000 Internet connections; a captive market by any means. Yet, there has been no scramble for customers in this place. Most of the bigger companies have ignored because of their own reasons.
My interaction with Tata started when I enquired about their packages. I got a standard reply from “customer care” stating that I have no option but to wait. This was last year. Finally, they tied up with HFCL Connect, who refused to lay down the telephone line in my area (posh enough by any standards). Repeated requests yielded no action and I gave up in disgust.
Yet, it was during this time when they built up a customer base (with the HFCL Connect customers and those who could afford to use the other phone line from BSNL). I have always known that their infrastructure is good, yet let down by shoddy marketing and incompetent staffers. All of a sudden, they withdrew from the market. Now logic dictates that they take care of their existing customers or refund the money back. Well, they did neither. Instead of giving a local number to connect their dial up, the poor customers had to pay Subscriber Trunk Dialing charges to the nearest city where their services were available. Despite all this, the customers were given repeated assurances that their matter is being looked into and finally their connectivity would be restored.
Yet, this did not happen. Finally, a proactive consumer threatened to go to the court. It was during this time that they realized (after 6 months nonetheless) that matters have come to head and they cannot take their existing customers for a ride. In the meantime, I mailed to the top head and explained to him the position on ground.
I would not say that they did not respond. When they did, I talked to certain someone who was outright in his statement that they cannot give any time frame as to when the server would be installed. I had to wait nonetheless since I was a “potential customer” and not an existing one. Therefore, in no manner I could raise my voice. It is their prerogative isn’t it, that they love to get bad press and negative publicity.
3 weeks gone by since then and nothing has changed. I tried my luck again hoping against hope that the in charge of Tata Indicom in my city would have any clue about the dial up packages; since it was pretty much in news that server is going to be installed finally.
The problem is that hired people tend to reflect the company; it is something that the HRD people should note. I mean, it is asinine to have someone who does not know about his job; is drawing salary enough. The primary interaction is with the junior level staffers and in no way it is possible to escalate the routine problems to the seniors. It only adds to their burden and frustration, which leaves no one happy.
In this regard, I came in contact with the marketing manager who insisted that I ought to have the fixed wireless phone for Internet surfing. Despite my phrasing and rephrasing the question that I wish to access Internet only through dial up, they were adamant about selling me fixed wireless terminal. I pointed out that there was some news about having their own server installed in my city for dial up access. Well, then a classical case of non-application of mind; he insisted that all the traffic is routed through Hyderabad. It was enough to piss me off and thoroughly disgusted dealing with them.
This also gave me a clue that work on installing the server is nowhere near completion and I would still be forced to use my existing BSNL Internet dial up packages. Now for the million dollar question. Why am I insisting on Tata’s and not Reliance? The fact is that VSNL has an excellent infrastructure. There is no doubt about the same. They own the International bandwidth and their own gateways. VSNL has recently introduced unlimited dial up packages, which make sense for my existing phone line. I am using the BSNL phone exclusive for Internet access; the outgoing numbers being restricted to 172xxx. It is secondary matter though that I would be paying more monthly charges than BSNL broadband; the only reason I am not picking up the same is because BSNL has so far not clarified their stand on data limits. As for Reliance. They currently have only Fixed Wireless Phones with an inbuilt modem, which does not connect to Linux that I am currently using. I cannot compromise on that for sure.
Therefore, this is Tata’s for you and their attempts to take a share of the “millions” in the telecom market. I heard that the marketing executives are hard pressed to achieve their targets. Fact is that their plans are not really exciting enough to be written about. The big question mark about the quality of infrastructure is always there. During my brief interaction with the “executives”, I came across ugly looking brick like Kyocera handsets. Well, why would someone take that? Understandably that they want to reduce the initial upfront costs but there are definitely far better looking, cheaper and functional handsets for CDMA available.
It is this strategy that has gone horribly wrong. First, they do not take care of their customers, or this is what my understanding says so. Secondly, they desperately need to scale up efficient sales team. The fact is that sales people ought to believe in what they are selling. The Indian consumer is price conscious. It is this fact that would make or break the companies in the volumes segment. Tata’s are eyeing the major volumes segment in terms of Public Call Offices or PCO’s. The retail consumer would matter if, according to them, the hapless poor soul would unquestioningly hand over the money to them. What of those customers who were existing subscribers for dial up and been given a raw deal? What of the people those who placed trust in one of the oldest business houses and in fact one of the finest; almost blindfold? It is finally a matter of principles and the way trust is handled. Unfortunately, traditional mindsets do not change over night.
I am still praying and hoping for an unlimited dial up in my city; admittedly, I have never ever seen one or ever surfed on a broadband connection sitting back in home. That is the day when it really happens. A thought that much of the market is rural; these companies have not given much thought as of now to tap in the same. As and when it happens, perhaps then the telecom revolution would justify its name. Is TRAI listening?